Implementing a data-driven approach to guarantee fair, equitable and transparent employee pay

Your pay is important. It’s usually something most people don’t understand — why are we paid what we’re paid? Ultimately, this lack of clarity can lead to confusion and negative feelings that affect our productivity and relationships with our employers. You may have encountered situations when you felt your pay was unfairly biased by your manager, recruiter, HR or company policies.

You may know or suspect instances in which your pay has been determined based on someone else’s preferences for background, or stereotypes about your gender, race, ethnicity, identity or abilities. It can even feel unfair based on your own confidence in your ability to negotiate.

What do we think is the right thing to do, and how do we aim to achieve it here at Plastiq? Paying employees fairly, equitably and competitively is what’s right. Being transparent about our philosophy and practices is the commitment we’ve made to achieve this goal.

In designing our compensation philosophy, the Plastiq leadership team agreed that fair pay and transparency would be our guiding principles. Then it was all about the data.

The first step was to understand everyone’s work: their job function, the scale and scope of their work, and their day-to-day responsibilities. This led us to being able to identify if someone was working in accounting or financial forecasting, software development or product management, recruiting or people operations, contributing as a recent graduate/new person to the workforce, a seasoned individual contributor, a senior team lead, an experienced people manager or a more strategic cross-functional vice president.

Next we invested in access to market data from a credible resource — one that we know is used by other companies we respect — with comparable market, industry and size to Plastiq. Because companies have to participate in the benchmark survey to be able to purchase and access the survey data, we knew we were getting accurate, verified information we could trust. This ensures a few things: no subjective self-reported data, accurate alignment in assessing the scale and scope of all the roles, as well as mutual interest by the user base to make sure the data reporting and retrieval was reliable. For Plastiq, the most relevant data centered around what other companies in San Francisco and Boston pay their talent. We also cared about paying as well or better than other tech companies — in particular fintech companies — that were not yet publicly traded.

These distinctions are important for any business when planning pay. To use another small business as an example — let’s say a food truck looking to hire cashiers and cooks — one might evaluate how much to pay its employees using several factors. For example, there may be a difference in pay for food trucks operating out of Austin versus Seattle; the type of food truck (savory or sweet) may influence the level of skill required to prepare or serve the food; margins may be vastly different, meaning the business may be able to employ many or only a few. If you were planning to staff and pay a large-scale, lower-margin cupcake food truck in Austin, would it make sense for you to base your employees’ pay on a two-person sushi truck operation that required skilled sushi chefs in Seattle? Probably not. You’d want to benchmark against a business — preferably multiple businesses — like yours, in your market, with similar staffing and operational needs, to feel confident you’re using the right data.

There is always a way to understand the market data for a company’s particular situation and what their competitors pay for talent. On the flip side, if you’re trying to figure out what you should be paid and what’s fair, there is market data available to help guide you. You could start by asking other people you know that do the same type of work as you what pay they’ve seen around. You could even (and should), ask your manager, recruiter or HR team for the data.

For us at Plastiq, knowing we were committed to fair pay and to formalizing that into a transparent philosophy, the next piece was to decide how competitively we wanted to pay versus the market rates. We considered three possibilities:

Delivery startup goPuff acquires BevMo for $350M

GoPuff is making a big acquisition less than a month after it announced a $380 million round that valued the Philadelphia-headquartered delivery startup at $3.9 billion.

Bloomberg’s Katie Roof reported today that goPuff was in talks to buy alcoholic beverage chain BevMo, and goPuff just put out a press release confirming that it has reached an acquisition agreement for a price of $350 million.

As co-founder and co-CEO Yakir Gola explained last month, the startup delivers the kinds of products you’d find in a convenience store (such as over-the-counter medicine, baby food and alcohol) in 30 minutes or less — and it offers those deliveries 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

GoPuff hadn’t attracted much media attention until recently, despite operating in more than 500 U.S. cities, with backing from Accel, SoftBank Vision Fund and others. That started to change with the recent round —  which brought its total funding to $1.35 billion — and goPuff is making an even bigger splash by acquiring an iconic retailer.

The announcement suggests that by acquiring BevMo (which operates 161 stores throughout California, Arizona and Washington), the company can accelerate its expansion into California.

For one thing, goPuff can now promote its delivery offerings to BevMo’s brick-and-mortar customers. The company also says it will integrate BevMo’s brick-and-mortar stores into its micro-fulfillment network.

“We’re proud to bring goPuff’s operations to California and look forward to investing in talent and real estate across the state,” said goPuff co-founder and co-CEO Rafael Ilishayev in a statement. “Partnering with BevMo! quickly advances our strategic objectives of providing more customers in new geographies with a seamless solution for their instant needs. Through this acquisition, goPuff will operate coast-to-coast, solidifying our presence as a leading, national consumer business.”

The announcement included a statement from BevMo CEO Josiah Knutsen said as well.

“Joining goPuff, a company that has created a truly differentiated approach and defined the instant needs category, will allow us to better meet our consumers’ evolving needs, including delivering everyday essentials directly to their doorstep,” Knutsen said. “We look forward to helping introduce goPuff to California and working together to further enhance the experience for BevMo! customers and our communities at large.”

The deal is expected to close within 30 days. BevMo was previously owned by private equity firm Towerbrook Capital Partners.

The $900 tCentric Hybrid chair is a solid Aeron alternative

Let’s get this out of the way: The Aeron is better. But not much, and that’s the story here.

The tCentric Hybrid starts at $900 and offers serious comfort and support for the tireless worker. There are endless adjustment levers, knobs, and options. The chair is available for ordering with a bevy of accessories and add-ons. The one I’m sitting in has the optional headrest, which I’ve found comforting as I’ve spent hours behind my desk napping while I hide from my family.

The chair is built like a rock. It’s solid and heavy and pretty in an industrial way. The lumbar support is ample, and the seat has plenty of cushion — but not too much! — for my middle-aged backside. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying: This is not a lounge chair. This is an office chair, but it’s still comfortable.

The Hybrid chair has all the options one would expect. Every bit is adjustable, including the lumbar support, which has an inflatable bubble that can be pumped up or released on demand. The arms are endlessly adjustable, too, nearly to the point of fault. There’s no way to lock the armrests in place.

I received this tester about 2 months ago and pushed aside my Herman Miller Aeron to test it. Do I like the tCentric Hybrid better? Not really. They’re about the same to me though it took about a week of fiddling to get the tCentric Hybrid to the same level as the Aeron.

The version I’m testing is outfitted with several add-ons and they’re wonderful. The company offers this chair with dozens of options. Need it taller? Okay, order a larger lift. Have long legs? It can be ordered with a longer seat. It’s available in a number of cushion options, too. You get the idea.

These chairs are built by ergoCentric in Mississauga, Ontario, and the company is expanding south into the American market. Chairs from ergoCentric are available through third-party retailers or directly from the company through a sales channel.

The Hybrid Mesh Back chair starts at $900, and that’s the rub. It’s nearly the same price as the coveted Herman Miller Aeron. I’ve used the chair for two months, and I’m not dying to switch back to my Aeron. Two months in, I’ve dialed this chair into a comfortable working throne and intend to keep using it for the foreseeable future. There are dozens of these Aeron alternatives on the market, and from what I’ve seen, the tCentric Hybrid is among the best thanks to its build quality.

The volcano method for understanding the fintech revolution

The Department of Justice moved to block the long-impending Visa-Plaid deal today.

The transaction was announced in early 2020, making the decision by the government to try and scuttle its consummation in November a large irritation to both parties. The pair spent nearly the entire year operating in the gray area between having struck a deal and being granted its approval, and may now have endured all that misery for no reason.

But regardless of what happens next with the deal, inside the government’s suit itself was a simply epic piece of art. That’s something you don’t say much about antitrust, sure, but in 2020 everything is possible.

Here’s the drawing, with context:

As you can read from the accompanying text, Plaid is the volcano and, we suppose by analogy, Visa is somewhere else above the water doing business, worried that Plaid may erupt and change the climate in which Visa currently operates. That would work.

A less interesting explanation of the Magic Volcano — a far better conceptual framework than a magic quadrant — is what former Visa Ventures founder Peter Berg said about the doodle:

By Peter’s analogy, the volcano is really more of an iceberg. That would make Visa the Titanic or some similar boat, right?

It would be fun to close by saying “all aboard the S.S. Visatanic,” but it appears the government is trying to ensure that Plaid cannot berth aboard the boat.

Sticking to our nautical riff, if the Volcano-Iceberg Deal is killed, will Plaid raise the Jolly Roger and go hunt some other ships? There’s one in particular that comes to mind.


Autonomous drone startup Skydio taps Tesla, Samsara veterans in enterprise push

Autonomous drone company Skydio has hired three executives in product and engineering following its recent $100 million Series C funding round as part of the company’s strategy to expand beyond consumer applications and into the enterprise and public sector markets.

The hires include Roy Goldman, who was the director of software development at Tesla for five years and most recently held a similarly senior position at Carbon. Goldman has been hired to head up Skydio’s product management.

The company also hired Ryan Reading, who previously worked at Samsara where he has been vice president of engineering and more recently general manager of fleet safety, is now head of software engineering. Mike Ross, who led the he led the telematics product group at Samsara, was hired as senior director of product management.

The company said Thursday that the trio will “play critical roles in realizing the company’s vision for the first-of-its-kind integrated enterprise autonomy stack.”

Skydio CEO Adam Bry noted in a blog post that their track record in delivering enterprise products with cloud-connected hardware will be “key” for the company.

Skydio raised $100 million earlier this year to fund its next phase of product development for the enterprise, public sector and defense markets.

Skydio initially focused on consumer drones, launching two since its founding in 2014. Both models of consumer drones use artificial intelligence technology to fly without a human operator. The autonomous system is able to track objects and people, while simultaneously avoiding potential collisions with objects, including trees, power lines and other obstacles.

The company announced this summer a new X2 drone platform designed for enterprise use. Skydio previously said that the X2 drone, which includes onboard 360-degree superzoom camera, a FLIR 320×256 resolution thermal imaging camera, a battery life of 35 minutes of flying time and a maximum range of 6.2 miles, will ship in fourth quarter of this year.

Apple releases iOS 14.2 with new emojis and accessibility feature that locates people with LiDAR

Apple has released iOS 14.2 today. It includes multiple new features as well as some important bug fixes and security updates. Among other things, this release introduces over 100 new emojis.

You’ll find a transgender flag, a smiling face with tear, pinched fingers, two people hugging, some insects and animals, a disguised face and more. When it comes to new variations, there will be a Mx Claus, a gender-inclusive alternative to Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Tuxedos are no longer limited to men and veils are no longer limited to women — you’ll be able to send an emoji with a woman wearing a tuxedo and a man wearing a veil.

Today’s release also includes a new accessibility feature for blind users who have an iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. Thanks to the built-in LiDAR sensor, you can use your iPhone to detect the presence of and distance to people in the view of the iPhone’s camera.

While it is still useful beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, you can use it to receive an alert when there’s someone in front of you that is more than six feet away, and another one if they come closer to you. In addition to stereo audio alerts, you can set up a haptic pulse that goes faster as the person gets closer.

TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey has more details on the new feature:

iOS 14.2 also adds some minor features, such as new wallpapers, headphone audio level notifications when the volume is too high and redesigned controls for AirPlay.

When Apple introduced the HomePod Mini, the company talked about a new Intercom feature that lets you interact with another Apple user in your house. Today’s software updates add Intercom support for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods and CarPlay.

If you have AirPods, you can now enable optimized battery charging. It works like optimized battery charging on your iPhone. If you plug your AirPods before going to bed, they won’t charge at full speed. Instead, your iPhone can tell your AirPods to charge to 100% right before you wake up — it should improve your battery life.

Apple is also releasing iPadOS 14.2 and watchOS 7.1. Apple Watch users in South Korea and Russia can now try out the ECG feature with recent Apple Watch models.

Before updating, back up your device. Make sure your iCloud backup is up to date by opening the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and tapping on your account information at the top. Alternatively, you can plug your iOS device into your computer to do a manual backup in iTunes or the Finder. Once this is done, you should go to the Settings app, then ‘General’ and then ‘Software Update.’

Here’s the full iOS 14.2 changelog:

iOS 14.2 includes the following improvements for your iPhone:

  • Over 100 new emoji, including animals, food, faces, household objects, musical instruments, gender-inclusive emoji, and more
  • Eight new wallpapers in both light and dark mode versions
  • Magnifier can detect people nearby, and report their distance using the LiDAR sensor included in iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Support for iPhone 12 Leather Sleeve with MagSafe
  • Optimized battery charging for AirPods to slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the time your AirPods spends fully charged
  • Headphone audio level notifications to alert you when audio level could impact your hearing
  • New AirPlay controls to stream entertainment throughout your home
  • Intercom support with HomePod and HomePod mini using iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and CarPlay
  • Ability to connect HomePod to Apple TV 4K for stereo, surround sound, and Dolby Atmos audio
  • Option to provide statistics about Exposure Notifications, without identifying you, to participating Public Health Authorities

This release also fixes the following issues:

  • Apps could be out of order on the Home Screen dock
  • Camera viewfinder may appear black when launched
  • The keyboard on the Lock Screen could miss touches when trying to enter the passcode
  • Reminders could default to times in the past
  • Photos widget may not display content
  • Weather widget could display the high temperature in Celsius when set to Fahrenheit
  • Next-hour precipitation chart description in Weather could incorrectly indicate when precipitation stops
  • Voice Memos recordings are interrupted by incoming calls
  • The screen could be black during Netflix video playback
  • Apple Cash could fail to send or receive money when asked via Siri
  • Apple Watch app may unexpectedly close when opened
  • Workout GPS routes or Health data are prevented from syncing between Apple Watch and iPhone for some users
  • Audio is incorrectly labeled as "Not Playing” in the CarPlay Dashboard
  • Devices could be prevented from charging wirelessly
  • Exposure Notifications is disabled when restoring iPhone from iCloud Backup or transferring data to a new iPhone using iPhone Migration

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website:

Amazon launches its first Amazon Air regional hub in Europe

Amazon has officially started operations at its first European Amazon Air hub, based out of the Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany. The new facility spans 20,000 square meters (65,600 square feet) and will host two Amazon-branded Boeing 737-800 aircraft, brining the company’s total operational air fleet to over 70 aircraft.

The retail giants says that the new hub will generate more than 200 jobs locally in the Leipzig area, where it already employs over 1,500 thanks to the presence of a large regional fulfilment center. Amazon also notes that this will help the company continue to offer timely delivery in Europe as the pandemic continues.

Amazon has steadily grown its Air cargo logistics operations since debuting the expansion of its delivery and shipping network in 2016. It has regional air hubs at airports in Texas, Puerto Rico, and Florida in the U.S., and plans to expand to Sand Bernardino International Airport in California and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 2021.

Back in June, it added a dozen new aircraft to its fleet in a move that was said to help it handle extra demand as a result of COVID. The addition of its European hub indicates it’s still prioritizing growing this aspect of its operations, which makes sense given demand for its services are likely spiking amid the current second virus wave in Europe and elsewhere globally.

Mixtape podcast: Wellness in the time of the struggle 

We’re back with another episode of Mixtape. This week Marah Lidey, co-founder and co-CEO of Shine, joins us to discuss mental health, venture capital, portfolio diversity and connecting with other founders trying to make it all work.

It’s easy to look at 2020 and identify perfectly valid reasons to pursue mental health. But that’s not the right way to think about it. Mental health just is. It’s for everyone, every day — no matter what fresh hell is going on in the world.

And it doesn’t have to take the form of therapy once, or even twice, per week. Stretch for five minutes after waking up or when you need to get away from your computer. Sit with your eyes closed. Chat with a friend. Or, if it’s your thing, go ahead and find some therapy. Do you.

Lidey says Shine seeks to make wellness accessible, and that is something that is becoming more and more necessary.

“Since we started, we’ve been on this mission to make caring for your mental and emotional health easier, more inclusive and more representative than it’s ever been,” Lidey tells us, referring to the premise she and her co-founder Naomi Hirabayashi designed for Shine.

It’s the company’s focus on inclusivity that sets it apart from other wellness apps on the market. Lidey says she and Hirabayashi met in New York while working at a nonprofit 10 years ago. They bonded on the shared feeling of alienation resulting from the need to subdue their intersectional identities.

“When I found myself in New York, and this cool job a few years later, and I was one of the only senior women of color in my environment on this management team, I was struggling, like I said, to kind of reconcile who I was and who I was expressing myself as in this new environment — the things that I would maybe subdue about myself or hide or, you know, feel like I couldn’t fully express,” Lidey says. “And a lot of the messaging that I think we get, that’s where me and my now co-founder really bonded.”

This year has also come with an awakening of sorts around diversity, or lack thereof, in the workplace, and diversity, or lack thereof, in venture capital. We’ll have to wait to see how long it lasts, but Lidey does recognize the efforts by some firms that have taken a look at their portfolios and had a bit of an “oh shit” moment.

“What people recognized was not just the accountability that they were going to be held to for maybe the first time, but also what they were missing out on,” Lidey says. “They don’t have any perspectives on their teams for how to deal with this and how to navigate it and how to support maybe their founders or how to support the wider community or how to be relevant right now. People, I think, were struggling with that.”

Click play above for the entire chat. It’s a good one. And while you’re at it, subscribe on your favorite podcatcher.

NASA wants new and innovative storytelling tech to document its Artemis Moon missions

NASA has issued a new request for proposals from partners that would be able to help it supplement its own storytelling in new and innovative ways, including potentially through use of robotic camera systems, high-resolution and 360-degree video capture, immersive VR content and more. The agency has noted that it’s looking for responses form a vast range of potential partners, including broadcasters and studios, as well as aerospace-specific companies, nonprofits and school.

This could be a prime opportunity for tech startups and younger companies working on robotic camera capture systems, highly portable cameras with unique features, software that automates or enhances media capture or editing, or even broadband video compression to land a significant partner. Artemis, NASA’s series of missions that will include a return trip to the Moon’s surface currently set for 2024, will also be squarely in the public eye over the course of the next decade at least.

Proposals could result in actually sending equipment along for the ride on forthcoming Artemis missions, including the crewed lunar orbital fly-by set for 2023. Based on the language NASA uses in its release, it’s really looking for ideas that could maximize the reach and impact of its groundbreaking effort to return to the Moon, and ultimately set up a more permanent research base – and it seems up for just about anything, as long as it sounds like it’ll go beyond standard TV and broadcast approaches.

The officially Announcement for Proposals from the agency can be found here, and any proposals are due by December 11, 2020 before midnight in order to qualify for consideration.

Reposite streamlines the most tedious tasks for travel agents

Meet Reposite, a software-as-a-service startup that wants to help travel agents of all kinds deal with their daily tasks. While the travel agency industry is huge, most people who work in this industry still don’t have a good system in place to deal with information, orders and communication.

Reposite wants to be a one-stop shop for tour operators, event planners and more. The platform lets you centralize all information in one repository. It lets you upload client information and your supplier database so that you don’t have to juggle with Excel files and good old binders.

Compared to traditional CRM systems, such as Salesforce, Reposite is specifically tailored for the travel and events industry.

You can invite your suppliers to join Reposite and update their profile. This way, information always remains up-to-date. Travel agents looking for a specific place will have a higher chance of finding a specific supplier if there’s a lot of information on the profile.

For suppliers, maintaining a Reposite profile shouldn’t be too intensive as you only need to update a single profile. All your travel partners will get the most recent profile automatically.

After that, Reposite helps you stay on top of your projects. As a travel agent, chances are you spend most of your time interacting with clients and suppliers. You can save email templates, track your meetings and calls from the platform. There are also some task management features built in, which should help you keep an eye on your pipeline.

When you’re ready to go ahead and sign a contract, you can invoice your clients and pay your suppliers from Reposite. You can see if there are any pending payment.

The startup is still quite young and recently raised a seed round of $2.5 million. Liberty City Ventures is leading the round, with Greycroft, Pritzker and Raine also participating.

While there isn’t a ton of travel activity during the pandemic, the startup thinks its product can help the industry as a whole for a better recovery. It should certainly help some travel agents become more efficient, which could improve the bottom line.